Editorial: Paid line skipping a lesson opportunity for kids

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

From the piece:

Theme parks, smelling money, now make it easy for parents to pay more to avoid the sweaty lines that can bring out the worst in children. But what lessons do kids learn when some of them march past the others to board the rides without waiting?

Read more from The New York Times.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

RC Madness said:

No, dead wrong, everyone can't buy in to FOL system. The only way pay to cut works is that there is always someone to cut in front of. They'll make a gold pass, an emerald pass, what ever they need to do to give someone else an advantage regardless of demand.

Everyone can't and everyone won't are two different things.

You're right that the system collapses if everyone buys in, but it works because everyone won't buy in. However, everyone who wants to easily can.

All you're describing is supply and demand.

And you're sort of contradicting yourself by being ok with the free systems, because they work the same way...by creating haves (people with passes) and have-nots (people to cut in front of). It's just that they don't distribute the passes in exchange for money.

So if we buy your argument that the equal access isn't there for pay systems, then it's not for the free systems either.

And Gonch, you're wrong. I've been in plenty of lines where the wait has doubled the waits times. Insane wait for Kingda Ka made way worse and Superman Bizarro as well. One hour waits easily turn into two because of pay to cut.

Flat out. I don't believe it.

Even if it is true, you'ree still not a victim because no one said you couldn't purchase better access. You chose not to.

But you're right, the two lines highlights the issue that no one likes to be reminded that life isn't fair, especially at amusement parks. I'm there for the rides, not some richer dudes life lesson. I don't ride Alice in Wonderland so I can have the Mad Hatter remind me, "You know your boss is never going to give you that promotion."

So if they found a way to hide it better (like most of life), you'd be ok with it. It's the reminding that's the problem, not the fact that discrepancies exist.

Fair enough. That day is coming. Disney's new system seems to have to potential to go a LONG way towards achieving that goal.

The cutters like it cause it celebrates the discrepancy and the rest don't for that same reason. Go figure.

Again, in the big picture, I'm not a cutter...and I'm fine with it. Hell, I'd like to see more tiers. It enables me to get exactly what I want out of my day rather than boxing me into a "one size fits all" scenario.

Rickrollercoaster's avatar

There's definitely bigger problems with the amusement industry right now, than "Who waits in line longer." I hate the fact people are so against paid line skipping.

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible." - Walt Disney
LostKause's avatar

I'll start my talking points on the issue now.

Most front-of-the-line schemes make the long line problem worse by allowing people to cut to the front. Even when the scheme simply waits in line for you, you have the opportunity to wait in another line. This artificialy raises the amount of people waiting in all the lines, both virtually and in reality. Some people who are allowed to cut to the front are essentially taking up the same amount of rides as two or more people, at the expense of those who are not participating in the line cut scheme.

Pay to cut solves the problem of long line at the expense of those who will not buy into it. If you don't pay to cut in front of everyone else, you are waiting for those who cut in front of you to get their rides. Therefore, it is a conflict of interests.

It can also create many other conflicts of interest. Why would the park want to run rides at capacity if they have line cuts to sell? Why would they want to give the people standing in line the honest expected wait time when they have line cuts to sell. Why would the park want to create any sense of urgency with regard their patron's time when they have line cuts to sell. And, this is the most important part, if there isn't any conflicts of interests, it may seem that there is, and that is just as bad. It's all about perception of value for the money.

As far as my second-class citizen rant, I will explain...

True story... My buddy just got shot in the back last week by a guy who has had many run-ins with the law. Fortunately, my buddy is recovering well now that he is out of the ICU, but it has taken a huge toll on his family and friends. The creep who shot him does stuff like this all the time, but his parents sold their business many years ago and have tens-of-millions of dollars in the bank. Great news though; my buddy's dad is a lawyer, so he has some money too, but not nearly as much as this creeps family has.

It has been said by people who were there, that when bailing him out of jail, this creeps dad asked him, "What did you go and shoot a lawyer's son for?" Meaning that it is going to be harder to get him out of this mess this time around.

What does this story teach me? That if you have money, you get more. If I were the one who shot my buddy in the back, I would probably be in prison for the rest of my life, because I don't have tens-of-millions of dollars to defend myself. This creep comes from money, a lot of money. He can get away with breaking the rules over and over, pointing a gun at an elderly lady for yelling at him, running from police in a completely different incident, and this time around shooting my friend over a ten dollar dispute.

You see this kind of stuff in the news all the time. A wealthy business owner repeatedly sexually abuses his daughter for years, and gets home confinement in his mansion. Meanwhile a homeless man is shot dead by police for sitting on the streets after refusing to move along.

If people with money don't like the rules, the rules will be changed to their benefit, just as long as they pay for it. It's a drop in the bucket for them anyways.

It's much harder for me to be able to afford to pay to break the rules. That's what I mean about being a second-class citizen. Not a self-fulfilled prophecy. Just the honest truth. Compared to people with money, people like me are invisible nobodies.

About personal responsibility, I am very content in my life right now. That's not saying I will not ever go after a better job or whatever. Paying to cut is more of a moral issue with me, even though I do sometimes find it difficult to be able to afford to pay for it when it may be necessary.

Finally, pay-to-cut is ingenious, really. If the lines are too long, they charge you a fee to be allowed to cut to the front of the lines, making the lines even longer. The longer the lines, the more people who are willing to pay to cut to the front. It fixes a problem for some by making the problem worse for the others. The worse the problem gets, the more people are willing to pay to fix it for them and make it worse for the others. And if this is not completely true, remember what I said about perception.

Is there a better way? Yes. I would want parks to charge much more for line cutting. The more it costs, the less people will buy it. The less people who buy it, the shorter the lines.

No Gonch, you need to believe there were times the lines were getting longer, not shorter. I was in a lot of parks when these systems were starting out in 2001 to 2003. Maybe things have gotten more efficient now.

But I get it. It doesn't need to be one size fits all. Not sure that pay-to-make-them-wait is the answer. I'm looking for the advancement of the thrill park experience as a whole. I think there are ways to make it work without killing the fun for most everyone else.

In case you forgot, Six Flags Great Adventure did offer a choice to those who paid to be in their park. Wait in a 3 hour line for a ride on El Torro, get a $50 Flashpass, or eat a giant hissing coach-roach to skip to the front. Many picked the hissing coach-roach then thew up on El Toro. There has got to be an easier way to have fun at a thrill park. It's a bag sign when desperation is an amusement park's target emotion.

Last edited by RC Madness,

Ok, let's try to come up with a better solution. What if parks raised their prices another 100 bucks for everyone on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Friday, giving everyone at the park on those days a better experience? Essentially, everyone who chose to go on one of those days would have faster access because they would be much slower days. Would you feel better about yourself on Tuesday because you wouldn't have to watch people go ahead of you in line and everything would be equal? Or, would you blame the park for implementing an unfair system because now everyone "can't" afford to go on Saturday and your Tuesday lines would be hellacious causing you to wait twice as long?

Didn't we have a piece on here a week or so ago about the Indy Zoo going with tier pricing?

And RC Madness, I'm curious as to where you find all these parks that aren't participating in FOL access. I live in Ohio and I don't have many choices for that. Even Kennywood has an offer in place. I suppose I could drive to Santa Claus or Erie, but for the time, hotel, and gas money I'd be spending I could buy two FastLane Plusses at KI. In the end I prefer my outings to be closer and at parks that offer more to do.

Hey, I know! Maybe Holiday World should offer their guests "free" FOL access!
Oh, wait... I guess technically they already do.....

Last edited by RCMAC,
Jeff's avatar

This argument that premium queuing creates a disincentive to be efficient is absurd. These systems are gravy in terms of revenue. Admission is the rest of the meal. Don't believe me? Look at the per capita spending at the public companies, because it isn't much higher than the admission.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

This assertion that, if nobody or fewer riders pay for front of line access, the lines will be shorter, is easily one of the most ridiculous arguments against these systems (and that's saying something since they all sound ridiculous to me). Aren't the people that don't pay for front of line access still going to be in line somewhere? Who's to say it's not somewhere in front of you, thus still making your wait longer?

sirloindude's avatar

I think it's the belief that they could be in line for one ride while waiting for their time to come up on another or the fact that they could ride the same ride multiple times before you can even ride it once, thus artificially becoming two or more guests at once.

I don't really have any problem with the concept (shoot, Fastlane has saved my bacon more than once) so long as the number of FOL experiences sold is kept at a reasonable number. When I was at SFOG a couple years ago, they were at times sending 1.5 of their two trains out with Flashpass riders. That's a bit much.

Last edited by sirloindude,

13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones


One thing that's interesting about this discussion is that people on both sides can't seem to fathom why the other side doesn't get it. One side sees premium passes as basic supply and demand while the other side sees a clear-cut case of class warfare.

Personally, I think that's the wrong argument, at least for this type of forum. I look at it from my own perspective as a person: I don't like these systems.

I get that parks are businesses and need to make money, especially mature parks that have relatively flat attendance growth. I understand there is a growing segment of people (from all different economic levels) who WANT these type of systems and enjoy using them. I'm not arguing with any of that. My argument against them, pure and simple, is that I don't like the park experience they result in.

I've been on both sides of the queue and it's not a good feeling either way. I don't care if you're the biggest free market capitalist in the world, nobody likes waiting in a long line and watching other people effortlessly stride past, fairly or not. Similarly, I don't like the feeling of eyeballs on me as I scurry past all those sweaty, sloppy souls trapped in some unmoving switchback maze while some pop hit blares on repeat in between televised ads for zit cream and hair gel (note to you people: you do realize this is just a Vekoma Boomerang, don't you?)

For me, the best parks offer escapism from the real world. Nothing pulls me out of that faster than a cheap reminder that we're all just hustling to make a buck and that dollars make the world go round.

These days an ideal setting for me is a cloudy Tuesday morning in early June at a park like Dollywood: crowds are low, rides are open and there's no stress about the day I'm about to have; no anxiety about getting to experience the rides I want, no fear about stopping to enjoy the smells or a bite to eat or exploring some hidden nook. I'm not watching my time or strategizing virtual queue options. Families aren't overstressed in trying to maximize their time or experiencing meltdowns when they realize they dropped $60 on an "all access Low Q SuperPass" and their kid isn't tall enough to ride half the good stuff. I can get that in the real world, why do I want to pay to feel that way?

A great experience for me, and one I tell friends/fellow consumers about, is seeing other people enjoying themselves just as much as me. I don't feel bad for marathoning on Thunderhead because families and a group of 12-year-olds are having the same experience.

I like my theme parks the way Norman Rockwell liked America: calm and idyllic. My day in the park is an experience and I am a guest, not a consumer "engaging" with various products and revenue opportunities.

My wish is that more operators designed and managed their parks to be enjoyed this way. That means high-capacity rides that move people, thoughtful design that spreads out the crowds and a focus on making the entire park an attraction in and of itself. To prove I'm a capitalist, let me say that these are the experiences I choose to patronize and reward with my money. The premium pass folks might say, "exactly! supply and demand! the consumer market works! All hail John Galt!"

Okay fine. But all I'm saying is I wish more parks were chasing my dollar and not the nickel-and-diming approach they have now. How does that get me more of the experiences I want? My reply to you comes courtesy of The Big Lebowski:

"You're not wrong Walter, you're just an a-hole."

"Okay, then."

So to the ardent defenders of the premium pass system, congratulations on finding something you believe in. I believe in simple, old-fashioned fun. It's increasingly difficult to find.

Rickrollercoaster's avatar

I find this comparable to families buying the Premium Dining Plan at Disney.

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible." - Walt Disney

Here is my honest opinion ........... Myself and my brother are in our mid 50's today. We are older than most members here on this site for sure ...LOL! I will pay the extra money for us to not stand in line and ride more coasters. My brother is about 300 pounds while I have some BAD lower back issues myself. The Platinum Flash Pass is the "whip" for us. I make less than $30,000 unfortunately. Money is not an issue here. Everything is a convenience if you have a certain amount of money to play.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

As much as I enjoy going back and forth, I also appreciate the myriad of opinions, post and insight to the thought process.

With that said, it still seems like arguing for little more than sport (which, I'm all for, mind you - I love a good workout).

The systems are here. They're here to stay. The big parks will never look back, only forward, and the smaller parks will grow into it.

This is the new normal. There's nothing to debate. You can like it or hate, but it's how parks operate now.

Change has happened.

And change is at the core of every 'against' post I've ever seen made.

"It's not how it used to be."

No, it's not...and it ain't going back either. Your scary new world is some kid's sepia-toned nostalgia about his 'good ol' days' at the amusement park.

Get off my lawn!

I posted like 3 minutes before you dude. Now I will get cheated out of my own opinions on this site?

Great post, Jetsetter. Despite my belief that these systems are good and that they work, I won't use them (outside of Disney). I like the traditional park experience that you describe and I rarely visit parks at a time when I need to use one. Mainly, I won't use them because I'm a cheap SOB and I don't see the value in using them when I visit a park that isn't being mobbed.

Jeff's avatar

The suggestion that you get "pulled into reality" or something says more about your perception of the world than any bona fide moral issue. My mom bought food with food stamps when I was little. Now I do well for myself. I've been there. There are still plenty of people who can afford more than me. At no time have I felt that I was at "war" with anyone. My ability to enjoy life is not measured by income. If it is for you, I think that's sad.

It's ultimately up to you, as an adult, to decide what you want. Do you really think that people with wealth are born that way? Sure, there are socioeconomic factors that come in to play, but there is no aristocracy. People still work that asses off.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Lord Gonchar's avatar

In addition to that, if you're stressing and having anxiety over getting on rides, you're probably doing it wrong. (and wouldn't something like FOL access be the CURE for that, not the cause?)

Some of you guys make going to the park seem so hard.

rollergator's avatar

Jeff said:

My ability to enjoy life is not measured by income. If it is for you, I think that's sad.

edited to add: Just using the above as a lead-in/jumping-off point.

You and I generally agree on most of the socioeconomics discussions. For people that are truly needy (and may be working exceptionally *hard* without getting anywhere better)....two points:

One: they're not sitting here discussing it on the internet, much less on a rollercoaster board.

Two: they're not going to amusement parks.

So I guess where I'm at is that pretty much anybody who can go to a park at all is in the mix for people who could theoretically take advantage of a pay-for-enhanced-access system. They're "in the game," so to speak.

I'd be infinitely more willing to argue that poor kids deserve a nutritious breakfast in school than that they're entitled to get amusement park rides at the same rate as when parks didn't "discriminate" in order to extract more money out of the guests who would pay more to get more done on their own schedules.

Last edited by rollergator,
Rickrollercoaster's avatar

There's nothing wrong with buying a paid line skipping plan!

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible." - Walt Disney

talon1189 said:
I posted like 3 minutes before you dude. Now I will get cheated out of my own opinions on this site?

The timing of the post is not exactly the thing that gets one's opinion validated around here...

slithernoggin's avatar

What rollergator said. Anyone who is able to choose to visit an amusement park has sufficient discretionary income to afford such a choice. That this cost or that cost is too, too much to bear.... I don't get it.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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